Gail Hornstein

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 13:24

Gail A. Hornstein
Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship

In the prologue to her deeply felt, exhaustively researched, richly imagined life of the émigré German therapist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (To Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the World: A Life of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, [2000]), Professor Gail Hornstein quotes a famous passage from Rabbi Isaac Luria, the sixteenth-century kabbalist, on the Jewish idea of “tikkun,” the moral obligation on the part of all human (and humane) souls to “repair” the world through acts of charity and goodness: “If a person fulfills her duty and strictly follows the ethical path,” the result, Luria prophesied, would mean the restoration of “order to the world.” “To redeem one person is to redeem the world.”

In her 30-plus years at Mount Holyoke (Gail began teaching here in 1978 as an instructor in the psychology department while she was completing her Ph.D. at Clark University), Gail Hornstein has sought--tirelessly, and guided by the ethical ideal of tikkun—to forge communities of learning, both inside and outside the classroom, as well as help foster communities of healing. She was there, we might say, from the beginning: as Chair of the Women Studies Program (1987-1994); as the founding director of the Five College Women Studies Research Center (1991-2001); and more recently, as cofacilitator of the Hearing Voices Support Group, a collective dedicated to reimagining the role of patients as participants in their own recovery, indeed as agents in the complex but (again) always hopeful process of healing, the desire for intrapsychic repair. Gail’s foundational participation with the Hearing Voices Group led, in part, to her most recent book, Agnes’s Jacket: A Psychologist’s Search for the Meanings of Madness (2009).

Gail’s nonstop energy is quite amazing: somehow she integrates brilliant pedagogy (teaching courses as various and challenging as first-year seminars, psychology of women, research methods, narratives of madness, psychoanalytic theory) with a constant schedule of lectures, interviews, advisory boards, all relating to her current work on madness narratives and their challenge to the bounded conventions of psychoanalytic therapies. Gail’s provocative work on alternative ways of viewing and theorizing mental health has achieved an international following. She has emerged as a major figure in the health sciences in the United Kingdom, holding visiting appointments at Birbeck Institute for Social Research, as well as Visiting Fellow status at Cambridge and Oxford.

For over 30 years, Gail Hornstein has sought to effect radical change in the way people view the world of mental health, enabling, in the process, hurt souls to read and transcribe their own lives, above all to feel their own lives, so that a process of self-healing might begin. For creating the conditions for generating such social and professional awareness and much more, we award Gail Hornstein the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Award for Scholarship.